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Greece's debts 'unsustainable' despite progress - IMF

Greece is making progress towards reducing its massive budget problems and restoring economic growth, but its debts remain "unsustainable" over the long term, the International Monetary Fund has said.

The IMF predicts Greece's economy will reach long-run growth of just under 1% a year - unimpressive, but an improvement on years when the economy was shrinking.

And it will meet the IMF's target by reporting primary annual budget surpluses, which do not include interest payments, equal to 1.5% of economic output.

Since the financial crisis left it buried in debt, Greece has made painful budget cuts that caused a deep recession, with unemployment currently at 23%.

Most IMF directors said Greece did not need any more austerity, but the country should reduce pension payments and make more people pay taxes to raise money to help the poor and cut overall tax rates.

The country's debt is unsustainable at around 180% of gross domestic product, the broadest measure of economic output, the IMF said.

Most IMF directors say the country will probably need debt relief to pay its bills over the long term.

Greece is under pressure to conclude its latest bailout negotiations in time for a scheduled February 20 meeting of eurozone finance ministers.

That would allow the country to join the European Central Bank's bond-buying programme, which would boost market confidence and make it easier for Greece to return to the bond market later this year.

AP

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